Interactions with Japanese People

In Tokyo, literally no one spoke to us unless we were doing business with them in some way. So, it’s been interesting to see that change in other parts of the country. A couple days ago we had three unexpected encounters with people in one day.

The first one was in Kyoto, when we were in the garden of Nijo Castle. Jason was taking a picture of me and a man offered to take a photo of us together. Jason declined, and then the man asked if his students could take a photo with us. He explained that he’s a teacher and his students would like to ask us a few questions in English and take a photo with is. It’s for an assignment.

So we chatted with the 5 students for a few minutes. They were from a high school near Tokyo. They took turns asking questions. They asked us things like where we’re from, if we’ve been to Japan before, if we like Japanese food, and what kinds. The highlight was when they asked Jason his favorite singer and, after a bit of thought, he told them “Taylor Swift.” The smiles of recognition and agreement, especially from the two girls, were adorable.

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Later, in Nara, we were walking around Nara Park, from shrine to shrine. We stopped in a rest center. While I was in the the bathroom, I could hear Jason telling someone about us, about our trip, about our plans for the day (it was a small place, and he’s got a quite loud and distinct voice). Turns out that a woman who works at the information desk saw him waiting for me and struck up a conversation. She gave him some good advice about how to get to where we wanted to go and where to go afterwards to get a great view of Nara.

The last one was the weirdest, for me. On the train from Nara back to Kyoto we had reserved seats in a mostly empty car, but two girls were in the seats just across the aisle from us. We hadn’t eaten much since we arrived in Nara many hours earlier, so we had gotten some snacks in the station. The girl closest to us was completely fascinated by us. I looked at her and smiled, and she grinned back at me, but didn’t say anything.

Then I got super self-conscious. I don’t know why! She said something to her friend and they giggled. She proceeded to stare at us for most of the time that they were on the train, while her friend was preoccupied with her phone. I mean, every time I stole a glance she seemed to be looking at us, and Jason later told me he looked over and saw her, head down on the back-of-the-seat tray, looking kind of moony at us. When they got off at the next stop, she turned towards us as they exited and gave us a huge smile and waved. My best guess, after the fact, is that she honestly just found us interesting and unusual, but in the moment it was sort of terrifying. Teenage girls looking at us and giggling!!

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